In recent years, the most valuable commodity on earth hasn’t been precious metals, shares in big business, or even currency itself. Instead, the most valuable thing a company can hold is the personal data of its users. And, with the launch of 5G, people are increasingly concerned about the safety of their personal data.
Because more and more businesses focus on using the data of their customers for profit, through means of data analysis or targeted ad campaigns, we’d like to show a few ways you can minimise the risk to your personal data been used for profiteering.
Read the information that companies have
Following the introduction of GDPR in recent years, you have far more rights as a citizen to control and manage what information businesses hold over you. One important part of the legislation is the “right of access”, which allows you to see and be sent copies of the information an organisation holds about you. Using this information, you can decide exactly what you want to give companies in the future, and you can also ask to find out what they’re using your information for. Personal data has been relatively liberated in recent years, so you should take advantage of the opportunity.
Control what you post
If you don’t like the information that certain companies have, it’s always wise to consider how exactly it got there. 99% of the time, data about you online was put there by you. If you don’t like the information a company might hold, the best thing for you to do is simply not post about it in the future. This will stop the flow of information, and mean that you’re much less monetisable than you otherwise would be. If there’s less information there, there’s less information to be leveraged.
Data sold to advertisers
With most free online services, all of their revenue will come from advertising, which is almost completely reliant on an individual’s personal data. Social networks, for example, base all of their advertisements on demographics, which are established through your known likes, friends, and any information you might put on the site. The personal data collected is in-depth too, as income, race, and even political opinions are used to decide who is shown exactly what adverts. Many people don’t know this, but their information is a huge part of what keeps social networks running.
The value of an individual’s data
However, on a singular level, your personal data has relatively minimal financial value. It can help to guide different companies as to whether or not you’re an ideal target to advertise to, but this data is usually collected in bulk, with thousands or even millions of people being considered. Aside from advertising, your data does have more moral value. If it falls into the wrong hands, or there is any form of a data breach or insecure data communications by the companies, you are at risk of hacks, embarrassment, or in extreme circumstances, blackmail. Whilst you wouldn’t be able to sell your data for a lot, unsecured data can be costly for you.
What are your rights?
Right of removal and rectification
If there is any information about you that a company holds and you don’t like it, or it’s incorrect and you’d like to fix it before it causes any issues, you have a right of removal or rectification. This means you can ask the organisation to either change some of the data they hold about you, or completely delete the information. Although this could impact the company’s effectiveness or harm your ability to use their product, at the very least it means you have full control.
In recent years, personal data has become something of a commodity, with value based on how it’s used by major online services as big data has grown. In all likelihood, you’ve given your personal information to dozens, or even hundreds, of online services. It’s vital to know all you can about who has your data, how it is being used, and what you can do to stay secure.
The European Union implemented GDPR to ensure businesses treat your data more carefully, and several US states have either implemented these laws or are in the process of drafting them. This means that many companies have to offer you the right to know what data they have, how it is being used, and the right to remove all of your data from their services. If you treat your data right and keep track of who has it, you can stay safe in today’s data-driven world.